For Sunday, October 18, 2015:
“Many poets are not poets for the same reason that many religious men are not saints: they never succeed in being themselves. They never get around to being the particular poet or the particular monk they are intended to be by God. They never become the man or the artist who is called for by all the circumstances of their individual lives. They waste their years in vain efforts to be some other poet, some other saint … They wear out their minds and bodies in a hopeless endeavor to have somebody else’s experience or write somebody else’s poems.”
When we were in school, we studied the forms of writers, poets, and artists to learn what makes a particular book or poem or painting or sculpture or musical composition ‘work,’ and we were often called to practice our own craft in those styles.
The key word is ‘practice.’ It’s a good thing to learn the techniques — we have to practice our scales on the piano — to give us the foundations, and along the way we may find that we have one or more favorite poets, even saints. But eventually we must set out on our own, develop our own style, our own form.
I used to think, ‘I’ll never be as good as Emily Dickinson or Georgia O’Keefe, Ansel Adams or Thomas Merton or Chopin.’ Come to find out, that’s a good thing! I can’t be, because I’m not them. I still have my favorite artists, of course, and I still practice my favorite styles, forms, and techniques, but now I know not to compare myself or my work with others. My work is just as unique as theirs, and so is yours. I am my own artist, my own saint, and so are you.